The Cricketers, so says the McMullen website, has been a tied house with the Hertford brewery and hospitality chain since 1919. It nestles in a cosy nook in Enfield village near the green but shut off from the traffic of nearby Chase Side. There again, the Cricketers is surrounded by the heart of outer-London residential housing, sufficiently close to the action that you could be there in a heartbeat from much of the locality.
A word or two from the McMullen website on their philosophy and their pledge:
Our Philosophy – is one word: Respect
Respect for our customers, who are spending their hard-earned pounds with us. Respect for our staff, who entrust their working life and career aspirations to us. Respect for our tenants and pub operators, who commit to business relationships with us. Respect for our shareholders who invest, through good and bad times, in meeting the expectations of all of the above.
Exceeding Customers’ Expectations
Customer expectations have changed dramatically throughout our history. When we were founded, less than 5% of the population had the right to vote in general elections, but now every customer has the opportunity to tell us, through numerous feedback processes what they expect and whether their expectations have been met. We are, and have always been, customer focused and as our customers’ needs have evolved so have we. This has allowed us to have survived, and indeed thrived, for nearly two centuries by listening to our customers and progressing with the times while remaining true to our values of providing passionate people and consistent quality, for the long term, at all times.
Perhaps the first benefit of a long relationship and the respect of which they speak is the ambience: McMullen have resisted the brewery fake makeovers with paint-it-on-by-the-yard pub decor while removing the small rooms and quirky bits that give unmistakeable character, and once gone are impossible to retrieve.
The pub is called The Cricketers, and it packed with excellent cricket memorabilia, including beer pumps in the shape of wickets. How brilliant is that? Maybe since cricket was once played on the green, and for all I know may still be to this day. The accommodation is comfortable, including as it does a number of creaky polished leather seats. Not a huge hostelry, but one that does the job and surely attracts a loyal clientele for those reasons alone.
So far so good – a good local is always welcome, particularly since McMullen furnish a small the bar with a few well-chosen hand pumped ales. I tried their seasonal bitter, Hop On A Mo, of which the McM website says this:
Hop on a Mo Cask – 4.4% Brewed in honour of November. Hop on a Mo’ is a smooth rich full bodied bitter made using a careful blend of Crystal and Chocolate Malts to give the beer its unique flavour balanced using whole leaf hops.
Cyclops – PREMIUM BITTER / ABV 4.8%
- See – DARK MAHOGANY
- Smell – ROAST / COFFEE / CARAMEL
- Taste – SMOOTH / BITTER SWEET
- Bitter – 4 / 5
- Sweet – 3 / 5
Lip-curling and intensely hoppy it was too, warmly to be recommended and with the suggestion that this is a regular brew, not merely a seasonal special.
The remaining question then concerned the food. Regular readers will know I am not generally very impressed by box standard pub food, particularly since it comes largely from freezer via microwave/fryer/grill to plate with minimum effort or one whit of skill from the local kitchen, still less any verve in selecting the best of local seasonal ingredients. Many are the very worst examples of cynicism in catering – “never mind the quality, feel the width” seems the more usual philosophy, when it would not take much effort to deliver a far better end product.
Pub menus are identical because in the view of the hospitality providers their clientele expect to see an identikit menu featuring all the usual suspects, and doesn’t care one jot if the grub has been produced in a distant factory so long as it is cheap and consistent. On this point I beg to differ, but am always happy to be proved wrong where a pub shows imagination and innovation in its menus.
Having said that, the menu here did not give you any sense of inspiration, but you never know. I chose the pie of the day, which claimed to be beef and Rioja; yes, that’s right – rich red wine from the north of Spain. It arrived as a rectangular box mounted on top of a heap of mashed potato and surrounded by clusters of frozen peas and carrots in a slick of gravy – the sort of industrial gravy you might find in a big jar labelled “gravy” and prepared by pouring boiling water on granules (in short, what many a household would do at home.) The pie itself was not unpleasant, wrapped in a pastry of similar texture to suet pastry found in steamed puddings. The meat was deep-filled, though you would be hard-pressed to find evidence of rioja. Truth be told, it was not bad to look at but lacked any depth of flavour.
My companion went for a vegetarian risotto, an option I would not normally choose since the provisioning of mass market risotti tends to leave the rice mushy and without a hint of bite in the rice. On this occasion the texture or rice and dish appears to have been pretty much spot on, for which praise is due – though it will still not be as good as that made fresh to order. We also ordered coffee and further drinks, served with cheery goodwill by the bar staff, who certainly seemed to have taken on board the “respect” message.
Each dish weighed in at £9-odd, for which it is certainly possible to deliver a decent home-made product without ever resorting to industrial gravy, but to give McMullen the benefit of the doubt pubs in these parts regularly charge £12-15 for main courses – and in that price bracket there is absolutely no excuse for a really good product.
In all, this is a pretty good pub, and with improved food would be an excellent pub. Sorry, McM, but the food did not exceed my expectations in any degree, but rather confirmed that box standard really is not good enough, and there is no better way than to use the skills and talents of your kitchen staff, and the local suppliers who can get you top notch ingredients without resorting to factory production lines. Must try harder to win my respect!